Eaters of the Dead

Right from the beginning of a Michael Crichton novel, he begins selling untruths. But the way he folds them into his introduction, they seem like an Author’s Note at the start of any other book, laying the real, historical foundation before diving into fiction. The reader can hardly separate his “facts” from reality and is immediately drawn into whatever world Crichton has masterfully created.

With his science fiction, he often creates fictitious organizations or groundbreaking legal statutes–anything that will build up his coming story and provide a plausible backbone. It is almost tempting to Google InGen and expect to find real stocktickers or company data.

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When I pulled Eaters of the Dead from my shelf, two things happened:

  1. I was shocked to find it wasn’t sci-fi. It sure sounds like a book about zombies. And it’s Michael Crichton, right? He is one of our best known creature sci-fi writers. What the heck is this? “The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan, Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922.” Ooooookkkkk….
  2. I was able to GOOGLE IDN FADLAN AND FIND INFORMATION ON HIM. He was a real person. His manuscript was real, Crichton didn’t make this up.

So then I was really confused. What was this book I had in my hands? Michael Crichton did a historical translation? That didn’t seem right. But, I couldn’t put it down. The book is absolutely fascinating.

Of course it is. It’s Michael Crichton.

Ibn Fadlan is a 10th century Arab ambassador from Bagdad, who crosses paths with a group of Vikings on his way north. He travels with them for awhile, and writes about their barbaric customs–before being enlisted in their war against a cannibalistic ghost-like creature.

This “manuscript” isn’t very long, only about 180 pages, along with extremely detailed footnotes. The details about Arab and Viking culture were extremely interesting–I have 3 pages of notes from those 180 pages.

…but now I am questioning everything I wrote down…

Michael Crichton, genius that he is, took the first half of the book from the real Ibn Fadlan manuscript. That part really did happen. But after that first half, things get a little crazy, and you can tell that the supernatural is taking over and maybe things aren’t totally real anymore. It turns out he took the rest from a story in Beowulf. The footnotes, which seem like Crichton explaining Ibn Fadlan’s translated words are actually a fictitious narrator. Now, they are obviously extremely well researched, and probably factual (mostly), but with MC…, question everything.

Either way, real or not real…this book is brilliant. Some of you may know it as The 13th Warrior, as it was republished under that name when it was turned into an Antonio Banderas movie (I have feelings about that, but I’ll keep my mouth shut). I’d never heard of either, I just knew it was on my shelf with the rest of our MC books. It definitely needs to be read by any MC fan–I’m not sure it will push Prey out of line for my favorite, but it might be number #2 now.

Buy Here:

Airplane Rides: Observations from Above

I have a fear of flying. More accurately, I have a fear of falling.

The take offs and descents, that’s what gets me. Oh, and turbulence. I HATE turbulence. That feeling that the plane is going to drop out of the air at any second…it is torture. Once we are at cruising altitude, I’m generally ok (You know…except for turbulence. Did I mention that I hate turbulence?) But until then, it is white knuckles and my husband telling me to breathe. Same on the way down. Oh god.

I’ve been travelling a lot more since meeting R. Until then, the last time I had flown was as a young teenager, before most of my anxieties kicked in. I was totally not prepared for how much flying would scare me that first time up. Now, at least I’m ready for it, I guess.

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Jake Alexander (a pseudonym) has written down 10 stories that were told to him by fellow frequent flyers. Interestingly enough, none were quite as panicked as I am about flying. I guess that would make for a less interesting story (I hate talking on planes). Anyway, somehow all 10 people seriously open up about some pretty real stuff.

This is one of those books that I’m juuuuuust not sure about. There’s some of the stories I liked. Pastor Daniel, flying to New York to take a break from his faith. The goth kid running away from home, so tough, but really she just wants to be loved by her parents.

However, most of the stories had a very real theme running through them. This is very much a MAN’S book. Ladies, don’t look for many feminist themes here. Jake hits on every single female he comes across (except maybe the underage goth girl), including two gay women who clearly have absolutely no interest in him. He is completely wasted nearly every single sentence of this book. Stoli on the rocks. Seriously. There’s only one reason to drink vodka straight. *shudder* He even allegedly convinces a women to masturbate under one of those blankets in a bag while he watches. Ew.

Oh, did I mention that he ALWAYS flies first class? As in, at one point he says he had not flown coach in 10 years. Snooty patooty. He’s also one of those people who bitches out the desk workers, and talks about them as if they were the dirt under their feet. The worker who is a “nineteen-year-old overweight, underpaid child” and “her fate had already been sealed by a fatherless child, an abusive parent, an absent education or maybe all of the above.” You know what, I am sure about this book. Very sure.

I think the moral of this book, if there is one hidden in the liquor and sex, is that slowly through this journey of constant drunken plane travel, he realizes that maybe there’s some greater life out there than this. He has this great epiphany, decides he’s going to change everything. And then at the end of the book (Yeah I know, SPOILER. Trust me, it’s huge, I promise.) he’s had a four day affair with an actress, and he makes her breakfast. WHOA. MINDBLOWING CHANGE. I AM SO IMPRESSED.

I feel like maybe I shouldn’t write reviews at ten o’clock at night. Or maybe I should, this is probably pretty entertaining. At least it is honest. I’ll never be anything but!

Guys, I didn’t love this book, obviously. It did make me outrageously thirsty. But, I’m a gin girl. Sorry Jake.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. (This was technically from NetGalley, but it has been out since December 2014. I’m not sure if they consider this an ARC anymore or not.)

Atonement

Ever read a book and have serious dejavu? That happened to me with Atonement. I didn’t know it, but I have apparently watched at least part of the movie. When I got to the library scene, all of my senses started going off like “That’s Kiera Knightley and (SPOILER ALERT) the little girl is going to walk in on them…now!”

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I am not sure I’ve watched much more than that scene though, and without looking it up, I couldn’t tell you who any of the other actors are. So, apparently I need to rewatch!

This is maybe not the most exciting book in the world, but it has that quality literature factor. That “whatever it is” that makes teachers put it on lists for future progeny to read for generations. The writing was smooth and the characters were strong. I liked that we got multiple viewpoints since there was so much conflict going on. We saw the war from not only multiple perspectives, but also multiple timeframes–preparation, during the battles, and towards the end.

Atonement is one of those books that will live on for a long time. Love it or hate it, it is our generation’s literature.

 

Fulfill’s Boxall #81